The mucous plug

The mucous plug is a progesterone-induced thickening of the mucus and cells of the cervix that covers the uterine opening during pregnancy.

There are some things about pregnancy that aren’t talked about much. Like lochia for example, which is the normal bleeding that occurs after childbirth. Or like vernix, which is that whitish creamy substance that covers the skin of the fetus, and which often covers the skin of the newborn baby. Another topic that is usually never talked about is that of the mucous plug.

What is the mucus plug

The mucous plug is a progesterone-induced thickening of the mucus and cells of the cervix that covers the uterine opening during pregnancy.

This thickening begins to form after conception when you become pregnant, and is completed within twelve weeks.

Usually the mucus plug remains in this position until the end of pregnancy, when dilatation occurs. It is a very important element which, during pregnancy, prevents the entry of bacteria into the uterus.

At the end of pregnancy it appears as a vaginal discharge of thick material. Compared to normal vaginal discharge, the mucous plug is more abundant, and has a more viscous consistency.

Apart from that, the losses vary according to the hormonal changes of the cycle, however the hormone levels during pregnancy are different and more constant, creating a different type of mucus which, in fact, forms the plug. 

How it looks

Mucus plugs may be clear, white, green, yellow, slightly pink, or brown. (a bit like the mucus expelled from the nose or throat!).

It has a jelly-like appearance: while in the cervix it is thick, but once expelled it becomes thinner and more liquid.

It can also be dyed with blood, which shouldn’t cause concern though.

Normally though, mucus plugs are typically whitish with streaks of pink.

The mucus plug is about 4-5 centimeters long, but if it doesn’t come out all at once, it can feel smaller, which is pretty common.

The loss of the mucus plug

Typically, the mucus plug is lost after the 37th week of pregnancy.

It is also possible that it is lost in advance: this fact must however be communicated to the doctor.

Indeed, early loss may indicate preterm changes in the cervix, and a potential risk of preterm delivery.

Also, the loss of the mucus plug potentially exposes the pregnancy to infection, so if you think you may have lost the mucus plug early or are unsure, talk to your doctor.

However, any increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy should require discussion and possible evaluation by a specialist physician.

Losing the mucus plug generally involves a change in the size of the cervical opening, either through dilatation (widening) or elimination (softening and thinning).

This occurs because at the end of pregnancy your hormones change, which is why losing your mucus plug too soon often means that labor is starting or your body is preparing for labor.

This naturally raises the following question: “Can you dilate without losing the mucus plug?”

The answer is no: if the cervix dilates, the mucus plug will always fall off.

Some doubts that may arise

How soon after losing the mucus plug will labor start?

Unfortunately, losing your mucus plug doesn’t guarantee that labor will start immediately afterwards.

Until labor sets in, it could take hours, days, or weeks.

How do I know if I have lost my mucus plug?

While some women easily spot the plug as soon as it pops out, it’s also possible that you may not even notice that you’ve lost the mucus plug. In fact, many women do not pay attention to it.

Don’t stress if you’re nearing your due date, and haven’t seen the mucus plug.

Her loss is of no real significance, other than as a sign that labor may begin soon .

How to get the mucus plug out?

If you’re past your due date, it’s natural to assume that popping the mucus plug will speed up the process.
Unfortunately though, that’s not the case. Although there are many “legends” about this fact, none of them have ever been proven. Where needed, a doctor will have other ways to speed up the process. Otherwise, he tries to relax you, and let nature take its course.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

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